Buffy the Vampire Slayer is an odd franchise because even though it still has many adoring fans after all these years, it also has a lot of really, really angry and bitter fans. You ever ask a hardcore fan how they feel about Season Six? Don’t…you’ll be trapped while they yell about Marti Noxon and how Tara deserved better for hours.
Similarly, while BtVS has been praised for having strong female characters, it’s also been criticized heavily for some of its other, lesser characters. Buffy might be great and all, but her “sister,” Dawn Summers, who is actually a ball of energy who materializes in the form of Buffy’s sister out of nowhere in Season 5, is considered to be one of the worst television characters of all time. Seriously, it’s like, the first thing on her Wikipedia page. And it’s not just because her existence is confusing and stupid, but because she’s whiny, insufferable, and useless. Then you have a lot of hate for Riley, Buffy’s milquetoast college-era love interest that I usually forget exists; a lot of hate for Kennedy, Willow’s love interest that I also usually forget exists; actually there’s a lot of hate out there for a pretty big chunk of the show’s characters.
But consider this – Dawn, Kennedy, Riley, hell, even the evil meninist Warren, are all blessings to the Buffyverse compared to Xander Harris. God, I hate Xander. Xander Harris is awful and stupid and doesn’t deserve to be in the presence of Buffy or Willow or…literally any of the other characters on the show. He causes a bunch of unnecessary trouble for the Scooby-Gang by doing dumb things like summoning demons for fun, spends all of season one whining about being friend-zoned by Buffy, and is generally useless.
Xander, how do I hate thee? Let me count the ways.
- First, let’s talk about how Xander’s entire subplot for the first season or so was, “Boo-hoo, I’m in the friend zone with Buffy.”..was I supposed to feel bad for him because of his unrequited love? Because I didn’t. He was a complete jerk about it. As soon as our pretty blonde hero appears on the scene, he starts brushing off his “best friend” Willow, leaving her feeling sad and vaguely third-wheeled whenever they were all together. To make matters worse, after Buffy turns him down at prom, he immediately asks Willow out as a rebound. Like, damn, dude, what a jerkass move! OH, and then later he decides he does kind of like Willow after all, but figures this out while he’s dating Cordelia. So, what does he do? Cheat on Cordelia, of course! Why did they all stay friends with him for seven seasons and a comic series?
- In addition to being a dick to Willow, he ends up treating Angel like complete shit, too. He constantly tries to make digs at Angel because he’s “jealous” that Buffy likes him, which, okay fine, that’s reasonable enough. But then he takes this to the next level and lies to Buffy about Angel being able to get his soul back so that she would kill him. Supposedly, he lies so Buffy would be able to save the world by killing him if she needed to or whatever, but judging by the way he treats Angel with pure contempt, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was really trying to get Buffy to kill this man so he could slide up on her.
- Most of Xander’s plotlines end up being about his love life, but like, I don’t even understand how he had a love life. Why do all these great women love him? You’re telling me Willow, a lesbian, was infatuated with this big horny loser? Faith, who is also a lesbian as far as I’m concerned, sleeps with him even though she’s the hottest woman on Earth, whose sneezes are probably more sexually appealing than Xander? Cordelia, the most popular girl in school, was really gonna risk it all for this square-ass man? AND YOU’RE TELLING ME ANYA, A DEMON WHOSE ENTIRE BEING IS DEDICATED TO SMITING TRASH MEN, FOUND AN EXCEPTION IN ALEXANDER LAVELLE HARRIS?? Even a demon played by Ashanti appears in Season 7 and tries to date Xander. Ashanti would never.
- Speaking of Xander’s romantic interests, do y’all remember when he was supposed to marry Anya and then left her at the altar? All it took was some demon disguised as his future self to be like, “nah, bro, don’t do it,” for him to just break the love of his life’s heart. I mean, come on. It’s always demons, Xander. Have a little faith in your woman. Anya should have sent him to a hell dimension.
- Every Xander-centric episode? Bad. “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” is a great example of how dumb and selfish Xander is – he foolishly makes a love potion to spite Cordelia and ends up putting himself and every woman in Sunnydale in danger. Then there’s “The Zeppo,” which is actually an entire episode about how Xander is a loser. Like, hey, Joss Whedon, if you knew your character was shit why did you make me suffer through seven seasons of him? Not to mention “The Replacement,” that episode where they make you suffer through not one, but TWO Xanders. That’s two Xanders too many.
- Remember that time he summoned a musical demon in “Once More with Feeling” just because he thought it would lighten the mood? And then once that backfired and the demon started causing people to spontaneously combust (because helloooo Xander, you’ve been part of the Scooby Gang for how long and haven’t learned that demons generally = bad??), he was totally content with letting Buffy think Dawn caused everything. Really, dude? You were going to let a fifteen-year-old girl take the fall for you? The only reason he pipes up at the end is because Dawn almost becomes this demon’s child bride. Which, speaking of Dawn…
- HE DATES DAWN IN THE COMICS. EW. You know, the girl he’s known since she was at least fourteen and he was twenty-ish? His best friend’s little sister? That’s so skeevy. If it was an age gap romance between people who weren’t sharing a big bro little sis type bond growing up, maybe it would be acceptable, but something about that just doesn’t feel right to me. Also, again – what exactly is the appeal of Xander Harris? Does literally every supporting female character need to fall in love with this garbage can man? And finally, perhaps worst of all…
- The man wears the most hideous outfits. Sure, most of the outfits on BtVS were pretty hideous, but at least they’re fun and nostalgic. Xander’s clothes, on the other hand, aren’t fun bad, they’re just bad, bad. Like, half the time homeboy looks like he rolled out of bed wearing a pajama shirt and just pretended it was a regular shirt. Or, he looks like he needs like his shirts need C-batteries to charge all the clashing colors and patterns going on. Dude sucks so hard he can’t even make an eyepatch look badass.
Alright, maybe I’m being too harsh. I get that he exists to keep the narrative grounded in some way by being the “normal” guy. His character is supposed to elicit some sympathy because he knows he’s surrounded by all these magical, mystical people, and he’s supposed to address the concept of masculinity and, alright, fine, I guess his character existed for a good-ish reason. I see the point they were trying to go for there. I GUESS.
But I mean…he still sucks ass. He could have been an average, non-sucking-ass fella pushing that theme and narrative. So, my hot take remains this: Xander Harris is the absolute worst thing about Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
I’d take a Dawn solo episode over a Xander clone episode any day.